Your guide to online dating: Tips, tricks and what to avoid

From starting with a strategy to getting your profile just right, this is the expert advice you need.

In this modern world, it seems like online dating is the key to finding ‘the one’.

Sure, it’d be nice to have a rom-com-worthy meet-cute at the local cafe or during a whirlwind trip to Europe but sadly, in this day and age, that’s not always possible.

And while many still dream of meeting their partner in a fairytale style, and there’s still somewhat of a stigma around online dating, it can be really helpful for women who are short on time, women who don’t get out much, and women who are reluctant to plunge back into the dating world after a bad breakup (or divorce).

Plus, it’s actually rather successful. According to a survey conducted in the US in August 2023 by OnePoll and Forbes Health, “Nearly 70 per cent of individuals who met someone on a dating app said it led to a romantic, exclusive relationship”.

Locally, according to a 2019 survey conducted by Australia Talks National, 35.5 per cent of Australian adults said they met their current partner or spouse online.

Woman online dating

Of course, it’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows; there are some drawbacks to online dating.

It can be extremely hard to stand out among millions of other profiles, for instance. Plus, you have to have hundreds of monotonous conversations with so-called ‘matches’.

And there’s the risk of being scammed; data from Reviews shows that, in 2022, Australians were swindled out of $46.8 million through online dating.

But don’t let us scare you! Online dating is, for the most part, a positive experience if you know what you’re doing.

So, if you’re thinking of trying online dating – whether for the first time ever or for the first time after a hiatus from it – we’ve spoken to the experts to reveal some top tips, guaranteed to help you navigate the various love-orientated websites and apps.

Couple on a date

What is the trick to online dating?

According to Beck Thompson, Founder and Relationship Coach at The Relationship Circle, the trick to online dating “is to be purposeful about it.”

“Choose the strategy that is not going to lead to dating burnout for you, so set an amount of time each day that you are going to use it and when you are going through profiles take the time to look at them rather than mindless swiping.”

Similarly, Holly Bartter, Founder and Director of Matchsmith – an online dating support service – says the trick to online dating is setting goals and being proactive.

“It can feel like a numbers game, and it certainly is somewhat, but I tend to focus on quality matches for my clients. It starts with first identifying your goals, and going beyond just ‘connecting with someone new’. If you’re looking for a long-term partner or just looking to dip your toe into dating, understand that you’ll want to gently convey this through your photos and bio.

“Of course, you have to be in it to win it, so try and reply in a timely manner, identify potential strong matches and get off the app and meet them for a coffee within a week or so. Above all, confidence and bringing a great presence to your profile is essential.”

How can I improve my online dating profile?

Both Beck and Holly agree that being authentically yourself is the best way to ‘improve’ your online dating profile.

“If there is something quirky about you, put that on there, it is your first filter to finding the matches that like you for you; there is no point pretending to be someone you are not,” Beck says.

“While it’s not always easy the first time around, the right photos are critical; we first match based on visuals and then tend to read the bio. Invest in some quality photos with a professional – if you feel self-conscious have a friend take them for you or use a self-timer! – and make sure they represent the person you are today and the life you lead.

“For example, if you don’t usually drink, having a ‘party’ photo with a cocktail in your hand sends a different message,” Holly echoes.

What should I say in my first online dating message?

The initial message to a match is always the most daunting – but both Beck and Holly say that you should avoid the classic ‘Hi’ and should instead opt for something a little more personal and original.

“Pick something on the other person’s profile that you find interesting or you have in common and ask a question or [make a] comment about that. It might be a country you have both visited or something funny they wrote,” Beck suggests.

“Ask about something in their photos or something they’ve mentioned in their bio, or even asking how their week is going is a gentle warm opener. Show a personal interest and stay away from generic, cookie-cutter responses,” Holly advises.

Woman online dating

What should I be wary of in online dating?

Beck believes that you should be wary of time wasters. Decide early on in your online dating journey what you want in a partner – and just as importantly, what you don’t.

“Be cautious of the red flags that exist for you. Before you even think about jumping into online dating, you need to get really clear about what you are looking for and what your deal breakers are. Once you know what your deal breakers are, then you know what to be wary of.”

Whereas Holly recommends being cautious of people with truly sinister intentions.

“While plenty of happy couples have met online, there are always individuals who will look to exploit others. If someone feels too good to be true, they probably are. Look for overly polished profile photos that could be stock or other stolen images, and be wary if someone is pushy to meet you too early on. Always make your initial dates during the day in a public space like a cafe, and only give your personal details once you feel comfortable.

“Major red flags are someone asking for you to lend them money, having far-out explanations as to why they can’t meet or, of course, any disrespectful behaviour; you are fine to delete and block if someone is making you feel uncomfortable.”

How do you keep an online relationship going?

As it turns out, the key to making an online relationship last is to take it offline as soon as you can.

“Get the other person on the phone or on a date as soon as possible. Work on moving it off the apps quickly,” Beck says.

Holly agrees. “Move offline as soon as possible! Seriously – there are way too many people who jump on apps wanting to chat and have a ‘pen pal’. They may use it as a boost from a recent breakup, or are just wanting to see who might be interested in them. If they avoid meeting up or string you along with sporadic messages for weeks on end, cut the conversation off,” she notes.

“If you are long-distance, keep communication regular and out of the apps; if you’re looking for a monogamous relationship and your interest is still actively swiping, it’s not likely to end well. Most of all, feel confident in what you have to offer and don’t lose hope; if you feel app fatigue, take a break for a few weeks and then get back to it.”

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